by Robin Galen Kilrain~
Tips : Ideas for ActorsJon Jory
Jon Jory doesn’t want you to read straight through his book. He’s in favor of “tip dipping,” instead. Comparing the cover-to-cover consumption of Tips: Ideas for Actors to downing numerous espressos one after another, Jory suggests that spreading out its ingestion may prove more useful. And enjoyable. After all, 205 shots of espresso — the number of tips presented — is a lot, even for someone like me with roots originally in Seattle’s theatre scene. Ready for another, perhaps more expected, analogy? Jory also likens this comprehensive collection of counsel to a convenient tool belt. A slim paperback that can easily travel with you, handily holding some valuable tools of the trade.
As you might be aware, Jory is best known for his three decades as producing director at Actors Theatre of Louisville where, in 1976, he founded the renowned Humana Festival of New American Plays. He also may or may not be (rumor has for years strongly suggested the former) the writer of the plays authored by “Jane Martin,” many of which have been produced at the festival over the years and one of which was nominated for a Pulitzer. Jory has published plays under his own name and, in addition, has taught and directed across the globe. In other words, the guy has abundant and diverse accomplishments behind his solid on-the-boards cred — and just might know a thing or two worth passing along.
Giving a nod to the tradition of consulting an “old theatre rat” in order to obtain hard-won gems of advice, Jory shares his own knowledge, soaked up through a lifetime of experience. As well as by osmosis: Both his parents were actors for more than five decades. Jory’s page-length, practical and to-the-point “shots,” in fact, pay homage to another theatre tradition, one practiced by his thespian father: soliciting and procuring tips from acting colleagues at a bar following a performance. Where informal notes could be given and honest recommendations aired. (And where any shots downed were doubtlessly not of espresso.) Jory’s unwavering belief in the power of such traditions leads him to go so far as to begin the book’s foreword by saying that “90% of all acting knowledge gets communicated” through tips.
For some anytime self-coaching, Jory’s book is always at the ready with words of wisdom on topics as varied as “Angry Too Long” (page 138: Anger is a means to an end), “Wasting the First Hour” (page 146: Warm-ups and fear equal folly) and “Eating and Smoking” (page 164: Don’t piss off the props people). Broader subject groupings corral the tips into chapters. Text Study, Movement in Space, Strategy, No-No’s, and States of Being are some of those featured. Also included is a section called Veterans, proffering guidance from — you guessed it — a handful of others well versed in what works best on and around a stage. The curtain closes on this edition of Tips with an afterword in which Jory discloses what he believes “might be the tip of tips.” (Hint: The word’s the thing.)
Even if you find many of the tips merely timely reminders rather than striking revelations — as Jory freely admits the more experienced actors and directors among you may — surely a number of the 205 will hit their marks. Still crave more? For those who can never have too many shots of espresso — or tools in their belts — Jory has provided further insights in Tips: Ideas for Directors and Tips II: More Ideas for Actors.Happy tip dipping.